Friday, April 23, 2021

The Wailing Wall Talks Back

Let’s start with one of my favorite jokes: 


A reporter goes to Israel to write a piece about the Wailing Wall. Every day she sits and observes the crowds coming and going and notices that there is one man in particular who comes four times a day, rain or shine. After a week, she approaches him and asks if she can interview him for the magazine. He agrees and she begins: 


"I notice you've come here four times every day and sat at the wall praying for at least a half an hour each visit. How long have you been doing that?"


The man answers: "40 years."


" 40 years? Four times a day every day for 40 years?"


"That's right."


"Wow. That is really devotion. May I ask you what you pray about?"


"I pray that parents will care for love their children and children will appreciate and respect their parents. I pray that politicians will speak the truth and serve on behalf of the people they represent. I pray that that the poor will be cared for and the rich recognize their responsibility to give back to the community. I pray that people will care for the natural world and not take more than they need. I pray that Israel and Palestine will make peace and that all religions realize that we're all children of the same God, no matter what name we give to that God."


The reporter, teary-eyed: "That is so beautiful. Four times a day, every day of the year for 40 years you make these prayers. Tell me, how does it feel?"


"Like I'm talkin' to a f*ckin' wall !!!!!"


 And that well described the feeling of writing letters, calling Congress, protesting the antics of he-who-shall-not-be-named for four long horrifying years. 


But all of that has changed. A President who can call the Floyd family and speak heart-to-heart having known great loss himself, who is taking his work seriously and getting the job done in spite of the shameless opposition, who can make a mistake like telling a story about a woman running a salon and later calling it a saloon, catching himself, laughing about it— in short, a real, hard-working, decent human being who I feel proud to share a species with is also someone I can write to thinking I can be heard and considered. Someone—especially alongside his wife Jill— I could sit down at a table with and share my ideas of education with and we could actually have a meaningful discussion. 


When Obama was elected, I felt as so many did, “We did it. Now we can relax and pay attention to the fine things in life—children, jazz, walks in the park— and not dirty our hands with politics. He’ll take care of things.” Biggest mistake we ever made. How severely we underestimated the doubling-down from the Republicans to demonize him and his policies, work behind the scenes to rig future votes and crank up the hate-vulnerable, refuse every offer to sit down together and mutually serve the country. 


So I made a vow when Biden was elected to keep on top of things—keep donating, keep in touch with the next Republican scam, keep thinking of ways I can give food to Georgia voters standing in line to vote and teach yoga to people in Alabama. And at the same time, enjoy the sensation of full inhales and exhales, stop bracing myself against every tidbit of news and let the muscles relax just a little bit. The physical, psychological, psychic assaults from those four years that have entered our bodies and minds, an ongoing relentless national trauma that filtered down to our very cells and impacted our nervous systems, is still in a healing stage.


But alongside the personal respite from that ongoing battering is the determination to keep moving forward, not to rest content with each new victory, but to keep it moving forward to the long-term healing we all so desperately need. To keep praying—active, focused prayer—perhaps even more fervently, when the Wailing Wall finally begins to talk back. And start building piece by piece the Rejoicing Wall. One day at a time. 


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